Blood filtration improves safety of blood transfusions

White blood cells can cause costly complications following transfusions; the US and Germany are joining the list of countries requiring filtration of donor blood to remove them.

John Borchardt
Sep 27, 2000

HOUSTON. Every three seconds someone in the world needs a blood transfusion. White blood cells (leukocytes) in donor blood can cause serious medical complications, as many viruses (including cytomegalovirus, Human T-cell Lymphotrophic virus and Epstein-Barr virus) and bacteria (including Yersinia) are harboured in leukocytes. Blood donors are typically screened for only a few of these contaminants.

Leukocytes in transfused blood can also suppress the recipient's immune system. Immunosuppression may lead to multiple organ failure, increased risk of post-surgical infection and diminished prospect of cure for patients with certain malignancies. Refractoriness (resistance) occurs when a patient reacts to leukocytes in donated blood and creates antibodies. This immune response, known as 'alloimmunization', can cause resistance to subsequent platelet transfusions; patients do not respond to the transfusion and so have an increased risk of spontaneous bleeding. Febrile non-hemolytic transfusion reaction is characterised by a 1°C or more rise in body temperature within...

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